The Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge is a charity tournament that will take place on September 30th and October 1st. The Linda Netti tournament was founded by tournament directors Donnie Leeper and Anna Crowder of Jacksonville, FL. The goal was to start a memorial tournament to remember a dear friend who was lost to breast cancer, raise awareness, as well as help a local victim in need. We recently sat down with Donnie and Anna to not only learn more about the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge tournament, but what’s in store for this first year tournament.
The Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge will feature a CPR (Catch, Photo, Release) format where anglers will target redfish, trout, and flounder. Each species will be its own division and will pay out for 1st thru 5th places. Each angler who places will win a trophy, cash prize, as well as a “Fish EKG” shirt from Sticky Designs. Over slot fish will also be allowed for redfish. While the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge will be a first year tournament, the prizes and raffles give the feeling of a well established tournament, especially with 15 places being awarded.
This year’s beneficiary of the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge will be Julia Tuttle Petersen, a local mother of 4 who has inflammatory breast cancer. The first part of our interview focuses on Julia, her diagnosis, and what this tournament means to her. Julia Tuttle Petersen, “On January 25, 2016, three days after I had a perfect annual exam, my left breast became inflamed. My GYN, a breast surgeon, a mammogram, and two ultrasounds found no evidence of cancer. I was misdiagnosed with Mastitis. On March 11, 2016, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Tumor Grade III. On March 18, 2016, I had a PET scan and learned that the breast cancer spread into my lymph nodes and into four bone lesions, making my diagnosis Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer.”
Yak Outlaws: Julia, what were your initial thoughts upon hearing that you’d be the beneficiary of this tournament?
Julia Tuttle Petersen: I was honored that someone thought about me. Especially within a community that is so unfamiliar. When someone comes into your life and leaves a footprint, you think about them often, then when you really need them they appear. Not only do I feel honored, but blessed.
YO: What does being the beneficiary of the tournament mean for you?
JTP: It means one less thing I need to worry about. I have $100K and counting of medical bills not covered at this point. For now, I have just stopped opening the envelopes. In addition, it means that there will be awareness spread about this type of breast cancer. It’s not something that is easily diagnosed. I want the community to know what the signs are, what to look for and, more than anything, not to settle when they tell you nothing is wrong, but you feel in your heart that it is.
YO: What do you hope will come from your story?
JTP: If my story about my breast makes one person question their breast and fight harder than I did, I’ve accomplished something positive. No one deserves to go through this. Please, love one another. Time moves so fast. Forgive one another. Let go of anger and resentment. Live life to the fullest. Tell your love ones how much they mean to you. And keep me in your thoughts and prayers.
We next sat down with the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge founders and tournament directors to learn more about this exciting and truly amazing tournament.
Yak Outlaws: When and why did the decision come to start hosting your own tournament?
Donnie Leeper: The decision to have a tournament came after another event was cancelled. I saw an opportunity to do a tournament to memorialize a dear friend who I never want to forget. We also saw an opportunity to bring the kayak community together to help raise awareness about an ugly disease. Almost everyone has dealt with cancer in one way or another, and this was our way to give back.
Anna Crowder: Donnie came to me a few weeks ago after a local tournament director made the announcement that he would no longer be hosting his series. Donnie says, “There’s 5 tournaments off the calendar and I have always wanted to do a tournament in honor of my friend, Linda, who passed from breast cancer.” He told me there was a local mom with stage 4 and they’re working on raising money for her. I have been on the committees for the FL Sportsman Bash, The Greater Jax Kingfish Tournament, and I run weigh-in for a handful of others. So, I really wanted to use what I’ve learned from these successful tournaments to help Donnie honor his friend and really get some funds to this family when they need it the most.
YO: What were the factors in choosing the type of charity that you wanted to focus on?
DL: Being that Linda had breast cancer, I wanted who was experiencing what she went through. But, we will always be open to supporting and raising awareness for other diseases.
AC: When Donnie first asked me about helping, my question was, who is the beneficiary? If he would have told me any of the “foundations”, I would have turned him down. My best friend of 25 years fought breast cancer as a single mom. She was let go from her job due to being sick from the chemo, so she had no insurance. Those so called “foundations” were nowhere in sight when she needed money for treatment. She had to find clinical trials, beg for extensions on bills and worry about whether her lack of insurance was going to sentence her to death from this illness. When Donnie told me there was a local family that needs help, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Every penny we raise will go to help someone who really needs it.
YO: What do you wish to achieve with the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge?
DL: My goal is to raise money and awareness for someone who needs outside support. Satisfaction that we were able to get someone that help, and getting the best for our beneficiary. Mainly, it’s to show our beneficiary that they are not alone in this fight.
AC: I want to take some financial burden off the family first and foremost. Julia has enough that she is trying to fight without having to worry about how they are going to pay the bills that she used to pay from her own salary. I want their children to experience as little change as possible. They are going through enough without having to also experience financial hardships as well.
This year the goal is also setting precedence for the years to come. I would love to one day be able to say, ok guys this year the tournament is all for fun – there is no more breast cancer. But, I am afraid that day is far and away. So, putting on a big event, getting a lot of attention for our sponsors and for the tournament means we can help more families in the future.
YO: What are your goals long-term for the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge tournament?
DL: I would love to see the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge tournament grow for many years to come and become an event that one day people will travel to fish. Something that perhaps Linda’s son can help in running one day to help keep his mom’s memory alive.
AC: Long term, I would love to see the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge grow in the number of anglers competing. I love this sport, I enjoy tournament fishing and want to share it with like-minded people. Growth, growth, growth! We are already staging a pretty significant sized raffle for this year, so I would like to see that become larger – I want it to be the talk of the community. We are already bringing on unbelievable sponsors for a first year tournament. I want to make them happy and keep bringing on more each year. Of course, all of this means we can help more women like Julia.
The Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge is set to kick off September 30th & October 1st. With many sponsors like YakAttack, Cuda Brand, Bass Assassin, Fish Brain, Fish Hunter, MTI Adventurewear, Native Watercraft, Manley Rods, Gillz, and so many more, this tournament will definitely won’t be one to miss. For more information about the Linda Netti Memorial Kayak Challenge, visit their website at: http://nettikayakchallenge.com/ There you will be able to learn more about the format, their beneficiary, and register!
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